Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Up, up, and crash and burn!

Up, up, and crash and burn!

After the critical failure of Superman III, no one wanted to do another Superman movie and the father/son production team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind went on to do the spinoff movie Supergirl. Remember, Supergirl was originally supposed to appear in the original story of Superman III but was dropped because well… Richard Pryor. But anyway, Supergirl ended up bombing horribly and it pretty much sucked anyways. No need for me to review that one.

After the failure of Supergirl, the Salkinds decided to relinquish their hold on the Superman franchise. Enter the Cannon Group. Remember all those schlocky 80’s action movies you saw as a kid? Chances are a good chunk of them were distributed by this organization. You may also recall that not many of those movies were box office hits and they were going bankrupt. So they decided that maybe producing a Superman movie would save their studio. And so they attempt to bring back the late Christopher Reeve, who by then had decided to move on from Superman to other things. So the Cannon Group offered Reeve an offer he could not refuse: If he returned as Superman in Superman IV then the Cannon Group would produce a pet project that Reeve was doing at the time: A movie called Street Smart, which in the end fared much better with the critics than Superman IV. That’s what happens when you have Morgan Freeman as your co-star in that movie. But getting ahead of myself. We’re supposed to be talking about Superman.

Well Reeve agreed to the deal with an added bonus: The producers gave him creative control over the movie. And so Reeve decided that the Man of Steel should tackle a real-world issue and what better issue for him to tackle than the Cold War, even though by 1987 the Cold War was pretty much over. The main dilemma is should Superman play God and disarm the world as far as nuclear weapons go. And this should result in a better movie than the last Superman movie, right? Nope. This one was much, much worse. It grossed a disgraceful 15 million dollars at the box office which is not even a third of what the last movie did and it currently holds a 9 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes which means it’s the lowest of the low. And Rotten Tomatoes is never wrong… apart from that 56 percent approval rating they gave Man of Steel. What the hell?

Well, I’ve said enough because I have a whole lot of territory to cover with this one. So let’s rip into the movie that not only killed the Superman franchise but slaughtered it: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

The movie begins with the opening credits back to flying at the screen except that the credits take place against the backdrop of the earth and it looks like it was edited by an amateur using Windows Movie Maker. Ah, the joy of budget cuts. Next we see a Russian spacecraft getting struck by a wayward satellite therefore causing it to careen out of control and sends one of its astronauts floating off into space… well at least until Superman shows up in a really bad visual effect shot of him flying at the screen. Get used to that image, people, you will be seeing that same crappy shot of Superman flying at the screen over and over and over again throughout the remainder of this movie. Again, budget cuts.

Time for backstory!

As I mentioned before, the Cannon Group had been in bankruptcy for years prior to the time of this movie and they have had a reputation for stealing budgets from other movies for other projects they were developing at the time. At the time, the Cannon Group had the rights to Marvel’s superhero line and they were planning to produce a Spider-Man movie and they needed a lot of money to make that film work. So they cut the budgets from two major summer blockbusters that were planned for the summer of 1987: This movie and the He-Man movie, Masters of the Universe. The original budget for Superman IV was 36 million dollars, which would have put it on par with the other three movies which were made for close to 40 million dollars apiece, which in those days were the equivalent to the 150-200 million dollar “blockbusters” that you see nowadays. However the budget for Superman IV was slashed down to a pathetic 17 million dollars which meant that a majority of the visual effects crews that worked on the other three films had to quit in protest, hence the bad visual effects.

But the visual effects weren’t the only thing in this movie that suffered from budget cuts. The story itself had to be trimmed down repeatedly. In fact the original running time for this movie was 2 hours and 15 minutes. As a result of the budget cuts, 45 minutes was cut from this movie bringing its final running time down to an hour and a half exactly. And from what I was told, none of those scenes really went anywhere anyway so whether or not any of the cut scenes would have helped improve the movie remains a debate to this day.

But anyway back to the movie. After Superman saves the Russian astronauts, he returns to the farm he grew up on in Smallville, Kansas where he finds a crystal hidden in the ship that brought him to Earth as a baby in the first movie that will play a key role later on. However the rest of the Smallville scenes were pointless. Next cut to Lex Luthor (played once again by Gene Hackman) who wound up on a chain gang after we last saw him in Superman II. Anyway he escapes with the help of his dim-witted nephew Lenny (played by Jon Cryer who at the time was capitalizing off his success in the teen comedy Pretty in Pink) and together they hatch another plot to destroy Superman and you guessed it, take over the world.

Meanwhile Clark returns to Metropolis to find out that the Daily Planet had been taken over by a Rupert Murdoch-wannabe who proceeds to turn the paper into a standard tabloid Fox News-type paper and makes his hot daughter Lacy the editor-in-chief. Lacy is played by Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of legendary author Ernest Hemingway and had a string of successful movies prior to this. Personality-wise, Lacy is the prototype of Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and basically every bad society girl that have been in the media in today’s society. And surprise, surprise: She’s got the hots for Clark, the “oldest living boy scout” as Lois Lane refers to him. Clark is obviously not interested but then again who could blame him? After all, he’s only been serious with one woman (the fling with the blonde bimbo in Superman III doesn’t count because he was in his Superdouche mode at the time) so it’s understandable that he doesn’t really want to go to a place where practically everyone’s been before, if you catch my meaning.

However, before the whole Clark/Lacy thing can play out, the main story starts to kick in therefore giving Clark his dilemma about disarming the world because of the whole arms race where both the US and Russia (back when it was known as the Soviet Union) each pledged to strive to be second to none. Now when he landed on Earth, Superman was forced to adhere to a non-interference policy in terms of the natural order of things here on Earth, an act that he boldly went against in the first movie where he reverses the orbit of the Earth to undo the earthquake damage and resuscitate Lois after she dies. So what does Supes do, after a bit of soul searching that includes a pointless and visual effects-challenged flight around the world with Lois that sort of rips off the first movie? He goes to the United Nations and makes a little speech where he says, “Even though I am not of your world, the Earth is my home too and I can’t stand by and watch it get destroyed. So I’m gonna get rid of all your nukes.” And the weird thing is that everyone applauds, which is very unrealistic.

Meantime, cut back to Lex Luthor because like it or not, he’s in this movie too. After getting out of jail and hearing about Superman’s goodwill mission to destroy all nukes, he breaks into a museum and steals a lock of Superman’s hair that he had on display propping up a thousand-pound weight using a pair of garden shears. Logic: This movie sucks at it. The reason why ol’ Lex is stealing a lock of Superman’s hair is because he wants to create a clone that is even more powerful than the Man of Steel himself.

"Um, excuse me, sir. The He-Man auditions are down the hall to your left."

“Um, excuse me, sir. The He-Man auditions are down the hall to your left.”

Another interlude: When this story was first conceived, Lex created two versions of the being that would come to be known as Nuclear Man. The Nuclear Man that made it into the final cut of the movie was actually the second Nuclear Man. Scenes featuring the first Nuclear Man were among the 45 minutes that were cut from the movie. And it was probably a good thing that they did that. Because the first Nuclear Man looked like a horribly deformed giant baby who fought Superman while making bell and whistle sound effects. I’m serious. Not that the Nuclear Man they ended up with was any better. The film’s Nuclear Man kinda looks like he got lost on his way to the He-Man auditions. In fact, they actually wanted Reeve to play Nuclear Man (being that he is a clone of Superman) but Reeve declined because, well… Superdouche in the last movie.

So Lex gets his genetic stew made and plops it on a nuclear warhead which Superman throws into the sun along with the rest of the world’s nukes. The explosion causes Nuclear Man to be born and that sequence is absolutely silly.

Cut back to the Clark/Lacy relationship. There were other scenes involving them going out to a nightclub that is interrupted by the first Nuclear Man. Unfortunately you won’t find the nightclub scene in the deleted scenes section of the DVD because it doesn’t exist anymore even though the scene with Clark and Lacy at the night club was featured in the film’s promotional campaign and in the comic adaptation. In the meantime, the scene with the two that the producers kept was the scene with them working out, primarily because they needed to have some comedy in this movie, not to mention a little sex appeal courtesy of Ms. Hemingway in sexy workout clothes. Boy, all that yoga must have paid off. To this day, she still looks the same as she did when she did this movie. And it’s also funny to see Clark get a little payback against one of Lacy’s douchebag ex-hookups (who made fun of him) by throwing a heavy barbell on him and saying “No pain, no gain.”

And this leads to a humorous double date between her, Clark, Lois and Superman. All this does is provide more comedy that is humorous enough to avoid duplicating the mistakes that Superman III made with the slapstick humor. After all, the movie’s already bad enough on its own. Thankfully, Lex interrupts the goofiness by inviting Superman over to meet Nuclear Man, leading to a really stupid round-the-world brawl that involves the destruction of the Great Wall of China and Superman rebuilding it with his rebuilding vision? The hell? There were also scenes where Nuclear Man causes a tornado in Smallville and an attempt to nuke the Russian government heads with a nuclear missile inserted into the mix but like everything else, it was cut from the movie even though producers wanted to save the latter scene in case they made a fifth Superman movie. However it all ends in Metropolis when Nuclear Man threatens to drop the Statue of Liberty on innocent bystanders. (How very 9/11 of you.) But of course Superman prevents this from happening but Nuclear Man breaks out his radioactive manicure and scratches our hero in the back of his neck and then is kicked into space while his cape comes off and lands on top of the Statue of Liberty’s torch.

So anyway, Superman has been defeated by Nuclear Man and is presumed dead by everyone. Lois finds out that he actually is home sick with the flu or what could be cancer brought on by that radioactive scratch and it also ages him rapidly until he digs out that crystal that we saw earlier in the Smallville scene which restores him for some pointless romping and stomping with Nuclear Man which climaxes on the Moon. And how Supes defeats Nuclear Man here you will have to see to believe and yes it is extremely stupid.

Oh, yeah and there is one more thing I forgot to mention here. Nuclear Man also has a weakness. While Superman’s primary weakness is Kryptonite, Nuclear Man’s is total darkness. You put him in a room away from direct contact with sunlight and he drops dead where he is. Kinda stupid but makes sense unlike a lot of stuff in this movie.

So will Superman triumph in the end? Well, you know the answer to that one.

Admit it, this scene was the only reason you plunked down money on this thing, didn't you?

Admit it, this scene was the only reason you plunked down money on this thing, didn’t you?

As far as the acting goes, Christopher Reeve gave his all as can be expected but not even he could save this movie. And I feel really bad for him because the Cannon Group really screwed him over with this movie both creatively, professionally and practically everything else under the sun. Gene Hackman plays Lex for laughs and is still not menacing enough to be taken seriously. We’ll have to wait until Unforgiven for that. The rest of the supporting cast has next to nothing to do here, probably to give Mariel Hemingway more screen time. Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane got a more expanded role from the last movie but her being in the movie was kinda pointless. At least Mariel is actually trying to give a decent performance and to her credit actually plays the Kim Kardashian-ditzy rich girl role pretty well. Not to mention looks good doing it.

As far as everything else goes, I’ve already covered the really bad visual effects so no need to go back to that. A lot of the story doesn’t make sense. Its heart is in the right place but even that is hampered by the corporate greed of the company that produced it. And it was made to end the Cold War even though another fictional character did a much better job ending it than Superman did. That fictional character’s name was Rocky Balboa and the movie was Rocky IV.  Yes folks. Rocky Balboa ended the Cold War. So that makes the morals and the purpose of this movie completely null and void.

"Look, Ma! I'm breathing in space!"

“Look, Ma! I’m breathing in space!”

So as far as what happened after this movie. Well we all know what happened to Christopher Reeve. Margot Kidder ended up getting a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs back in the late 90’s, and the guy that played Nuclear Man never acted in Hollywood again. So apparently the ones who get out of this train wreck unscathed are Gene Hackman, who again went on to win an Oscar for Unforgiven, Jon Cryer… well, we all know what happened to him because of Two and a Half Men and Mariel Hemingway is still doing well with her yoga DVD’s. But still, I’m sure they’re still haunted by this movie. And last but not least, when Superman tells Lex Luthor that he’ll see him in twenty, he wasn’t that far off because this movie was so bad that there would not be another Superman movie for another 19 years! And last but not least, the Cannon Group is now an extinct production company, even though Golan and Globus are still in the business.

Congratulations, Cannon Group. You did the one thing that Lex Luthor, General Zod, and Richard Pryor could not do: You killed Superman. You delivered a movie that is so horrible that no one, not Superman, hell not even Mariel Hemingway in sexy workout gear could save this movie. THIS MOVIE SUCKS!

That is all.

Superman III

Richard Pryor's ruining my franchise?! This is a job for Superman!

Richard Pryor’s ruining my franchise?! This is a job for Superman!

As you know, this week the movie Man of Steel flies into theaters and fans as well as moviegoers are hoping that this Superman movie will be the movie that the iconic character deserves. And yes I am reviewing it. In the meantime we’re going to take a look at a Superman movie from the existing franchise which starred Christopher Reeve (god rest his soul) as the Man of Steel. And many people are convinced that he was the one and only Superman, especially in the later years of his life after his tragic horse riding accident which left him a quadriplegic and as a result, he became the real-life Superman and a symbol of courage and hope to the world.

However, I don’t want to start this review on a downer, especially since today I am reviewing one of his bad Superman movies. And surprisingly this one isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. And no, I am not talking about Superman IV, that’s next week. Today we are going to talk about Superman III.

To this day, this movie remains the only Superman movie I have seen in theaters. I saw it at the Hyde Park Drive-In when I was a kid back in 1983. And if you don’t know where Hyde Park is, well. I am originally from downstate New York, Dutchess County and Hyde Park is about five minutes up from the road from Poughkeepsie. And I think to this day, the Hyde Park Drive-In is still in operation as part of the few drive-ins that are left in the world.

But enough of my personal nostalgia. Let’s get into the backstory of the movie.

As everyone knows, the first two Superman movies are among the best comic-book movies ever made. Both films received critical praise and have performed really well at the box office. So it was inevitable that there would be a third Superman movie. In the commentary on the Superman III DVD, producer Ilya Salkind revealed that the original plot of Superman III was supposed to take place in space where Superman was supposed to battle Brainiac and another villain from the comics named Mxyzptlk (I’m serious. That’s how it’s spelled.) And it was also supposed to introduce Supergirl into the mix. Unfortunately that plan was abandoned presumably for budgetary reasons but the main reason why the original story idea was abandoned was because of an appearance by Richard Pryor on the Tonight Show which was hosted by Johnny Carson at the time. On the show he made a remark that he wanted to be in a Superman movie. The producers apparently saw the show and said to themselves, “Why not?”

So the writers came up with a story idea involving computers which were slowly starting to dominate every aspect of society at that time and make the movie more about the character Richard Pryor would be playing. As a result, the writers gave Richard Pryor more screen time than Superman. And that is the first major problem with the movie. The end result was this movie grossed only half of what Superman II made and critics had a field day with all the negative reviews, especially on the casting of Pryor and the overly comedic tone of the movie.

So how much worse can this movie get? Let’s get started.

"How dare you have more screen time than me."

“How dare you have more screen time than me.”

The movie opens with Gus Gorman (Pryor’s character) a chronically unemployed welfare-abusing loser who finally gets his welfare cut off. However, he does get a job with a computer programming firm that is run by humanitarian tycoon Ross Webster (played by Robert Vaughn and I’ll get to him in a little while because he’s another problem this movie has.) And there is where Gus learns about his hidden talent as a computer genius.

However before that, we have our next big problem with the movie: The opening credits. In the first two, we had the credits flying at you on the screen. Here, the credits are hardly noticeable because they are intermixed with a slapstick sequence where everything in Metropolis gets all screwy. Are you sure we’re watching Superman here or are we watching a parody of Superman?

Anyway on with the story. The story continues with Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) being invited to his high school reunion in Smallville and he wants to do a story about it for the Daily Planet. In the meantime, the love of his life Lois Lane (Margot Kidder who winds up making cameo appearances to bookend the movie, partly as punishment for speaking out against the Salkinds for not allowing Richard Donner to finish directing Superman II) is off to Bermuda on vacation. Aside from a quick stop to put out a chemical plant fire as Superman, Clark arrives at his reunion and reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole), who is now a divorced single mother trying to fend off the advances of the town drunk played by the same guy who played Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days.

Meanwhile after hacking the payroll and swindling the company out of the half-cents that are floating in the system (an act known as salami slicing that found its way into the movie Office Space by the way,) Gus’ talent with computers attracts the attention of Ross Webster, a humanitarian tycoon who secretly wants to, you guessed it, take over the world. OF COURSE! And as I said earlier, he’s another problem with the movie. He comes off as a kinder, gentler version of Lex Luthor. The producers initially wanted Frank Langella to play Webster but settled on Vaughn, who had already been widely known for roles in The Man from UNCLE and The Magnificent Seven. However, Langella would find his way into the Superman universe years later when he played Perry White in Superman Returns. I still haven’t decided yet if I’m going to review that one. Along with his ugly sister and his hot air-headed mistress, they plot to take over the world’s oil supply.

Lois is not gonna like this. lol

Lois is not gonna like this. lol

 

Realizing that Superman is still a threat to their plan, the trio have Gus try to acquire Kryptonite but not knowing what unknown element was in Kryptonite, Gus fills in the blank by adding an ingredient found in cigarettes. Smoke, smoke, smoke that Kryptonite. And when Gus lays it on Superman, it turns the Man of Steel from the overgrown Boy Scout he’s always been into a super douchebag who goes off and does such terrible things as straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa, blowing out the Olympic torch, and causing a major oil spill all in the name of truth, justice, and to get laid with blond bimbos.

However, Superdouche’s antics catch up to him when he ends up splitting into two beings which leads to probably the best scene in the movie: The big fight between Superdouche and Clark Kent in a junkyard. The real Superman wins and flies to the big confrontation with Webster and his super computer in a stunning showdown that includes the Man of Steel becoming part of a live video game involving real missiles. Maybe that scene was the actual inspiration for Angry Birds. The missiles are the birds while Superman is the green pig.

So will Superman triumph? Will Webster reign supreme? What will happen to Gus? Do you even care what happens to Gus? A lot of people would have to say no.

For all its faults, people tend to forget that there are some good things in Superman III. For starters, Christopher Reeve is actually still in top form, even though he had less screen time than Richard Pryor, but with what screen time he had, he makes it count. In fact many would argue that this movie was actually one of his best roles because he’s playing not two roles, but four roles. In addition to his normal roles as Superman and Clark Kent, he plays Clark with a little more of a backbone when he goes back to Smallville and he is even more believable when Superman becomes Superdouche. Also what works is the subplot involving Lana Lang. Annette O’Toole is decent in the role and actually seems like a better fit for Clark than Lois does. It’s kind of ironic that years after this movie came out, O’Toole went on to play Superman’s mother on Smallville. Plus her presence helps bring out Clark/Superman’s humanity a lot better than Lois did. And of course I mentioned before the big fight between Superman and Superdouche was the best scene in the movie. Also the visual effects were still very good, most notably the flying effects including a scene where Superman freezes an entire lake and carries it to put out a fire. If you want bad visual effects, see next week’s review.

We feel your pain, Supes.

We feel your pain, Supes.

Now to sum up what doesn’t work: The main story which was written as a comedy to reflect the fact that Richard Pryor was going to be in it. And considering that the writers for this movie were David and Leslie Newman who also collaborated on the screenplay on the first two Supermans with Godfather creator Mario Puzo, this is inexcusable because these two should know better. The villains were too weak not to mention miscast; the returning cast members’ roles were too short; and did I mention Richard Pryor? And even worse, the person who thought putting him in a Superman movie would be a good idea. Instead, he singlehandedly turned the movie into a joke and not a funny one. If Richard Pryor wanted to be in a Superman movie so bad, give him a freaking cameo. Don’t give him more screen time than Superman. I go to a Superman movie to see Superman. I don’t go to a Superman movie to see Richard Pryor.

Just think. This same fate almost befell Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when Eddie Murphy expressed interest in being in a Star Trek movie. At first it seemed like a good idea but thankfully, the producer of that movie must have had these five words in mind: “Richard Pryor in Superman III.”

However in all fairness, there are some Richard Pryor jokes that do work, such as the scene where he gets Chuck Cunningham so drunk he passes out and also when he disguises himself as an Army general and delivers a silly speech while trying to give Superman the Kryptonite that turns him into Superdouche. Otherwise, too much Richard Pryor comedy in a Superman movie is not always a good idea.

So is Superman III really as bad as people say it is? Well, it’s not as good as the first two, but it doesn’t completely suck. People tend to use the bad to overshadow the good. I guess you can say I kinda view this movie as a guilty pleasure. The movie’s not good but there are some redeemable qualities to this movie. It’s stupid but it’s enjoyable. And as far as enjoyable goes, you could do worse. And you’ll see worse next week. So take this movie for what it’s worth.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Well friends, this is it. The big one. The review that everyone has been waiting for. A review of the most anticipated film of 2012. So sit back, relax, and buckle up because I am about to get this review underway. Ladies and gentlemen, here is a review of the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga, The Dark Knight Rises.

But before we get started, I want to offer an apology for not reviewing the previous film, The Dark Knight. I was just starting to film myself on YouTube at the time The Dark Knight came out and I meant to do a review of that film at the time, but I forgot all about it and by the time I would have gotten around to it, everyone would have said everything I was going to say about it anyway so I decided not to go through with it.

So as my way of atoning for that, I am going to review this movie. One suggestion I would make about this movie is that you better pack a lunch because this film is almost 3 hours long. You heard that right, folks. Almost 3 hours long, a rarity for a summer movie blockbuster. So let’s not waste any time, shall we?

I’m gonna start off with a recap of the last movie, so this is hardly a spoiler because it’s safe to say that everyone by this point has seen The Dark Knight. Batman is wanted by the cops for murdering District Attorney Harvey Dent, even though by that time, Dent was corrupted by the Joker and turned into Two-Face. As Two-Face, Dent kidnaps Commissioner Gordon’s family and Batman saves them, even though Dent is killed in the process. In order to ensure that Dent’s good-guy reputation is secure, Batman and Gordon hatch a plot in which Batman will take the fall for both Dent’s death and the crimes Dent committed as Two-Face.

When this movie begins, its 8 years later and Batman has pretty much disappeared and the man behind the Bat, Bruce Wayne (again played by Christian Bale) has become a crippled recluse. Meanwhile two new villains have emerged to plague Gotham: Selena Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar who we all know in the comics as Catwoman even though she isn’t called Catwoman in the movie and the main villain, Bane (played by Tom Hardy.) Now here is where I have to show some praise. Despite a liberty taken here and there, this movie’s Bane is closer to the real Bane as seen in the comics as opposed to the ass-raping the character received by Joel Schumacher in Batman and Robin. This is one of Batman’s most dangerous villains and the only real villain to actually defeat Batman and he is portrayed as such here but I’m not going to give too much away. I mean, it’s hard to do a movie like this without giving away too many spoilers.

Anne Hathaway does a pretty decent job here as Catwoman (I’ll call her that even though Nolan doesn’t call her that in the movie.) She has the right amount of sex appeal, physical prowess, and vulnerability that the character should have. And we sort of do feel the conflict that Catwoman has: She doesn’t know whether she wants to be a villain or a hero, just like in the comics.

The actions of both these villains force Bruce out of self-imposed exile and puts on the Bat suit again to save Gotham. Yes, folks, Christian Bale’s Bat-voice is back too, although it’s more toned down here than it is in the previous two movies. And what ensues is probably the biggest battle of his life.

And some of the supporting actors in this movie are pretty good too. Nolan Bat-regulars Michael Caine gives off an extremely touching performance especially for having significantly less screen time than in the last movie. Morgan Freeman again shines as Lucius Fox. Gary Oldman again does a pretty decent job as Commissioner Gordon. And the newcomers do a pretty decent job as well. Note that at least five of the main actors came over from Nolan’s last film, Inception (also a good movie I saw in theaters.) In addition to Tom Hardy (Bane) and Michael Caine (Alfred), Marion Cotillard (who appeared with Bale in the film Public Enemies) does fairly well as Miranda Tate, who has been handling Wayne Enterprise activities in Bruce’s absence.  You might think she doesn’t play a major role in the story, but she does (especially towards the end of the movie.) And Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as idealistic cop John Blake does most of the hero stuff whenever Batman is off-screen. And he does share a connection to Batman (which I also will not give away.)

The visuals are absolutely incredible. Everything from Batman’s newest vehicle, the Bat (a variation of the Batwing from the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher franchise) to Bane blowing up various sections of Gotham City (including a spectacular sequence where a football field is destroyed while one player plays on oblivious to the destruction around him.) And the climactic battle between Batman and his army of cops and Bane and his army of liberated criminals will clearly take your breath away.

Also of note is that this movie was filmed in New York City during the Occupy Wall Street movement which actually gives a hint of realism to this film (something the Nolan Bat-films have done pretty well) and from what I’ve heard, actual protesters were used as extras in the film further adding to the authenticity of the film.

So now on to the story. The story is a mixture of some of the best Batman stories ever told in the comics: “Knightfall” (the Batman/Bane storyline), “No Man’s Land” (criminals controlling a cut-off Gotham City) and the landmark mini-series, “The Dark Knight Returns” (Batman returning after a prolonged absence) and the story is told really well. In fact, the pacing is so good that you forget that this film is almost 3 hours long. If a movie can do that, then that’s the sign of a good movie.

So now the moment of truth: Is The Dark Knight Rises good or is it a colossal letdown? Well, in my honest opinion, The Dark Knight Rises is really, really good. In fact, I think I liked this better than The Dark Knight. It kept me really interested and it is clearly the ultimate Batman movie. A true epic and it’s also one of those rare threequels that is actually just as good as or better than the original movies. Other examples of this include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (even though I never seen it and as I’ve mentioned before in previous videos, I am not a Lord of the Rings fan.)

So there you go viewers. That is my take on The Dark Knight Rises. I highly recommend it to everyone and if you don’t want to see the Olympics, I suggest you go to the movies and check it out.

The Avengers

The Avengers

The Avengers

And now I am going to do a review (even though it is actually almost three months late and it’s pretty much out of theaters now) of what is not only the highest grossing movie of 2012 (although a certain Dark Knight could change that) but it’s also the third highest grossing movie of all time and the only one in the top 3 that is not directed by James Cameron. So without further ado, here is my long-awaited review of The Avengers!

So what do I think of the movie? It can only be summed up in a few words: Now THIS is a superhero team movie! I mean, the first two X-Men movies were good. I didn’t see the third one but I heard it sucked. And don’t get me started on the not-so-Fantastic Four movies. I really like the way that they used five movies (Iron Man 1 and 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger) to set up this movie. Aside from the fact that I did not see the 2008 Hulk movie (the one that is part of the Avengers franchise despite being owned by Universal), I thought that the Avenger-related movies have been handled pretty well. And we’re up to this movie. And as soon as I heard Joss Whedon who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer was gonna direct this movie, I knew this was gonna be in good hands. And it shows.

The main plot involves all the aforementioned superheroes Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, replacing Edward Norton from the 2008 film), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson, reprising her role from Iron Man 2), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are brought together by SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to save the world from the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a race of aliens who steal a cosmic cube so they can, you guessed it, take over the world.

And of course, like in every superhero team movie, there’s some good conflicts in the film and not just against the evil aliens but also among the heroes as well, the main ones between the squabble matches between Tony Stark (the self-absorbed cocky anti-team player) and Steve Rogers (the humble yet patriotic boy scout); Thor and Loki (adopted brothers but on different sides of the coin); and probably the best in-team fighting in the movie: Thor and Hulk (demigod vs indestructible 10-foot green monster who becomes so whenever he gets a little teed off.)

Now before we continue with the review, I just want to say that I personally haven’t read any of the Avenger-themed comics growing up, except for Iron Man. Iron Man was cool, especially in the early 90’s with the kick-ass Terminator-style artwork and I was a huge fan of War Machine. I was mainly into Spider-Man and Batman (I have already seen the Spidey reboot and I’m planning to go see The Dark Knight Rises sometime this month.) But as far as the other Avengers go, I never really got into Captain America or the others.

There are loads of action sequences littered throughout the film that will practically leave you at the edge of your seat and the climactic battle in New York City pretty much rivals the climatic battle for Metropolis in Superman II. It will blow you away. And while the film was released in 3D, you don’t really need to see it in 3D to know what scenes were converted in 3D.

Now on to the performances. Robert Downey, Jr. is still in top form as Iron Man and Tony Stark. In fact, Robert Downey, Jr. post-drugs is awesome. Chris Evans is still good as Cap, but he’s more like a general in this one than he was in. But to be fair, he’s better as Cap than he was as the Human Torch in the not-so-Fantastic Four movies. Mark Ruffalo pulls off both Bruce Banner and the Hulk (who is easily the best character in the movie) really well, considering that the only real successful attempt to bring the Hulk to life was the TV series in the late 70’s. The 2003 Ang Lee/Eric Bana film sucked and like I said earlier, I haven’t seen the Ed Norton film to give it a good-enough judgment but this is by far the most successful attempt to bring the Hulk to the big screen. Ed Norton must be kicking himself now for not wanting to be a part of this movie.

As far as the non-super powered Avengers go, Scarlett Johannson more than holds her own, proving that she is more than just eye candy for the guys (she takes out three guys while handcuffed to a chair in a hot black dress.) That’s the way you do it. And Samuel L. Jackson is awesome as usual as Nick Fury despite being a little more subdued than usual (mainly because this is a PG-13 movie.) But if there’s one nitpick that I have with the movie, it’s that Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is a little too underdeveloped. He doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time.

Now on to the main villain. For one thing, I like how multi-layered Loki was. He starts out as a General Zod-like character (again another Superman II reference) during his battle with Captain America, mixed with Hannibal Lecter (when he is captured by the Avengers and he does have one scene with Scarlett Johannson that echoes the Clarice/Lecter conversations in “Silence of the Lambs.”) It’s also amusing when he and Tony Stark are talking smack to each other back and forth. But like all villains, he gets his comeuppance in the end and it’s one of the best scenes in the movie so I will not give that away for those of you who have not seen the movie yet.

So basically as far as some closing thoughts on the movie goes, I just want to make a note that I’ve been going to movies since I was 2 years old and never once in my 30-somewhat years of going to the movies have I seen moviegoers on their feet and cheering for a movie than I have for The Avengers. Trust me, it’s that good. If you haven’t seen it yet and by some miracle, it’s still in theaters, go see it. You definitely will not be disappointed.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Tobey Maguire, eat your heart out.

I was originally going to begin this new blog site devoted to movie reviews with a review of The Avengers but I was still trying to work out the bugs. Don’t worry, The Avengers review is still coming, but for now I’m going to launch this site with a review of the reboot film, The Amazing Spider-Man.

I primarily reviewed this film as part of my obligations as a die-hard Spidey fan and I had a lot of expectations for this film. And I was not disappointed. This reboot film is, for the lack of a better word, amazing.

A lot of fans were skeptical about doing a reboot of Spider-Man at least five years after the much-maligned Spider-Man 3. But as far as I’m concerned, Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire should be taking notes. As far as this movie is concerned, this is Spider-Man as he was in the comics.

For one thing, Andrew Garfield (best known for playing Eduardo Saverin in the Facebook movie, “The Social Network”) looks exactly like Peter Parker in the comics. And in costume, he has all of Spidey’s mannerisms (talking smack while kicking some bad guy butt) and I also like the fact that they brought Peter back to his science nerd background (something that was not explored fully in the Raimi films) and showing off his ability to invent stuff (he builds his own web-shooters as opposed to organic web-shooters.)

In fact a lot of the lot of the actors in this movie were pretty good. I thought Martin Sheen was a better Uncle Ben than the 2002 version and Emma Stone (she had me at Zombieland) is great as Peter’s love interest Gwen Stacy avoiding some of the problems I had with Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane in the other films. (For one thing, Raimi turned the character of Mary Jane, who in the original comics was a party girl, into girl-next-door Gwen Stacy.)

If there was a problem with this movie, it was basically the fact that the main villain of this film, the one-armed Dr. Curt Connors aka The Lizard (played by Rhys Ifans) was a bit underdeveloped but still effective, but in all fairness, the Lizard is a pretty hard character to pull off on screen.

As far as the story goes, I think that the director, Marc Webb (ironic that a man with the last name of Webb would be directing a Spider-Man movie) was actually going the Christopher Nolan route when he rebooted the Batman franchise, making it darker and doing a big story arc with three movies. The story arc here deals with Peter finding out a secret about his parents (who in this film as well as in the Ultimates Universe were scientists as opposed to secret agents as they were in the original comics.) Other than a few liberties here and there, this film is probably the most faithful to the comics than the Raimi films.

My final verdict is that if you liked The Avengers and the Nolan Batman films, you should definitely see this movie, preferably before you see The Dark Knight Rises.

PS: A little spoiler for you. Peter does not tap dance in this movie.